September 17th, 1908 was like every other day for Katharine. School was in session, and she had a full day of teaching Latin to first year students at Steele High School in Dayton Ohio. A storm was brewing with the new school superintendent over his idea to save money by slashing the salaries of female teachers, and Kate was determined to fight tooth and nail alongside her fellow educators. After school, she checked in with her older brother, Lorin at Orville and Wilbur's bicycle shop before returning to an empty house. With her father, Bishop Wright, visiting his Midwestern churches, and Orv and Will in Washington, D.C. and Pau, France respectively, Kate anticipated a quiet evening.
The telegram awaiting her changed all that. Orville had been seriously injured andstudent pilot killed when their plane had crashed during a test flight. Within two hours, Kate had alerted her family and her job, packed a bag and boarded a train to Washington. As the family nurse, she would nurse her brother back to health, spending most of the next six weeks at Orville's bedside. When she arrived in Washington, she also needed to protect her brothers' interest. Her brothers' contract with the military was in jeopardy. Inventors of various flying machines flooded the city in the days after the accident hoping for a chance at the contract. Working with Army officials as well as the leaders in the field of aviation, she protected the design of their machine from other inventors as well as helped secure an extension of her brothers' contract.
Six weeks after the accident, Orville and Kate returned home to Dayton. There, Orville continued to recover while they prepared for a family Christmas including Wilbur. But Will was stuck in Pau and in need of help. Could Kate travel with Orville to France after the first of the year and serve as their social manager, keeping the press and local dignitaries at bay? With her overwhelming sense of commitment to her family, Kate agrees.
When they arrive in Pau in January, 1909, Kate finds her job entails more than keeping the hordes of people away from her brothers so that they can work. There are dozens of documents and proposals, written in several languages that neither Orville and Wilbur can read. Fluent in languages, Kate translated the papers, pointing out issues and giving advice on how to proceed. In the afternoon, she charmed dignitaries such as King Edward VII of England and King Alfonso XIII of Spain with her Midwestern common sense and humbleness. And on February 15th, 1909, she became the third woman in the world to fly alongside her brother, Will.
The French were quite taken with Kate, so much so, they deemed her 'the other Wright Brother' for her contributions to her brothers' success and presented her with the same awards as Orville and Wilbur. When the Wright siblings returned to the states, they were invited to a special reception at the White House followed by a lavish luncheon at the Cosmo Club which suspended its rule against women guest to allow Kate access.
Orville and Wilbur recognized Kate's dedication and contributions as well, making her a board member of their company where she served until Wilbur's death in 1912. Her later years were spent in serving as a trustee at Oberlin College as well as becoming a voice in the suffrage movement in Ohio. She married her college friend, Harry Haskins in 1926, at which point Orville stopped speaking to her. He felt she had broken their vow to remain single. They never reconciled.
Katharine Wright died of pneumonia on March 3rd, 1929. She was fifty-four years old.
Can one week change the course of history...and her life?
School teacher Katharine Wright has built a life for herself, devoted to her family, friends and students in the growing city of Dayton, Ohio. But when her brother, Orville is involved in a deadly airplane crash outside of Washington D. C., she puts her life on hold to nurse him back to health. Instead, she finds herself fighting for her brothers' work. With determination and the help of Lt. Frank Laham, Kate goes up against the United States Military as well as her brothers' adversary, Alexander Graham Bell. Accusations of a deliberated accident and murder spread like wildfire through the city, leaving Kate to wonder. Can she secure her brothers' place in history while finding a place of her own?
Coming July, 2021
Multi-published author Patty Smith Hall lives near the North Georgia Mountains with her husband, Danny, her two daughters, her son-in-law and her two adorable grandboys. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden.